Consistency is a major factor in all aspects of raising and training your dog. The importance of being consistent is really brought to your attention when you start actually giving your dog commands.
Less Is More
Since people are verbal, we tend to chatter — a lot. Dogs aren’t at all verbal, so if your command is hidden in babble, you make it really tough for your dog to understand what you want. Sure, she may look at you adoringly while you prattle on, “Do you wanna sit, Bootsie? Sit for mommy, precious… Who’s a good girl? C’mon and sit,” but how is she supposed to pick out what she’s actually supposed to do?
Talking to your dog while you’re hanging out on the couch with her after a long day is one thing, but when it comes to giving commands, say what you mean.
It’s a Command, Not a Suggestion
You want to teach her to listen to you, not train yourself that you have to shout or give multiple commands to get her to listen. Your tone should be firm, but your volume should be conversational. If you have to yell or repeat basic commands, you’re not in control, and your dog knows it. Leaders give their commands calmly, and expect them to be complied with.
Do You Really Mean It?
Meaning what you say is just as important as saying what you mean. If it’s not important to you that your commands are complied with, how can it be important to your dog? He doesn’t know that it’s important until you teach him that it is.
Try the K.I.S.S. method of giving commands — Keep It Short and Simple. You can use your dog’s name to get her attention, but your command itself should be only one or two words.
He’s not necessarily being defiant or disobedient if he ignores a command. He just might not know the meaning of the command in that context (more about that later), or he might not know that he has to do it every time, even if something distracts him. You might want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t hear you and want to repeat the command. He almost always heard you, but didn’t understand that it wasn’t optional. It’s his job to listen, and it’s your job to teach him to listen by helping him be correct every time you give him a command.
Later we will teach you how to teach your dog the meaning of all the words in his behavior vocabulary in a fun and positive way. Once your dog understands the meaning of the words, and until he’s has the habit of complying with your first command, set yourself up for success by doing two simple things:
- Don’t give him any command you are not in the position to enforce.
- Enforce every command you give, even when it’s not convenient for you.
You can help your dog become reliable by consistently rewarding her for correct responses to your commands and gently insisting upon compliance when she makes a mistake. It won’t take her long to realize that whether she complies, or you make her, your command will be followed. This makes life much easier and less stressful for her, because she never has to wonder who is in charge or whether she should follow instructions.